Author Topic: West Africa 2  (Read 1356 times)

Cindy Miller Hopkins

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West Africa 2
« on: May 24, 2010, 08:21:37 AM »
It’s all about water … water images are in the gallery under Travel/Africa

You can blame this travelogue, or give credit (your choice), to my photo agent, Danita. She has been asking for images of wells, farming, irrigation, you name it. So for the past two days in Gambia & Senegal, I have been trying to do just that … shoot water.

This self assignment really got me thinking. We all KNOW that water is important, but as a North American, I grew up never giving water a second thought. Turn the faucet and voila … water! Hot water, cold water, clean drinkable water as much as you want, when ever you want it. Ironically, as I write this I’m on a small cruise ship …surrounded by water. But how does that old saying go? Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink? It isn’t until you travel to third world countries that you are reminded what a luxury that really is.

Water is everything. We need it to survive. We drink it, wash our clothes in it and bathe in it. We need water for everything from growing our crops to washing our wounds to keep out infection. For thousands of years humans have prayed for rain. Rain dances and water gods exists in every civilization known to man. Without it, our crops wither and die, as do we. Countries with a coastline have access fishing and in turn, a nutritious main food staple. Many of these places are knee-deep in trash and filth, a demeaning consequence of poverty. Access to a clean fresh water supply is often the difference between poverty and prosperity … life and death.

Most of the population in West Africa (aka Black Africa, their words not mine) exist on subsistence farming. To put this in simple terms … their full time job is to make it to tomorrow. The average life expectancy is about 56 years of age. 56! West African countries have a very high Muslim population, some as much as 90%. Muslim women are expected to bear many children, the average being six. In most villages we visited, families of ten or more were more common than not. This explains the median age being well under 21. There are LOTS of children in every village … with parents who can not provide for their needs and then die young. MANY woman die during childbirth, often leaving the remaining children as orphans. There is also a very high infant mortality rate for children under 3. Malaria, lack of medial care, and starvation are the main killers of the population. A good water supply add another 10 years of life expectancy to a village. Sad, but it’s the reality here.

Woman & children gather water & wood all day … every day. People fill every dish, pot, pan, bottle, jug, jar, gourd, and container with water. Village wells are in the center of town and often under lock and key or guard. Kids don’t “play” in water. Small family or village gardens are all tended and watered by hand. If your crop doesn’t make it, neither does your livestock or … you. The ironic thing is that in a few weeks, when they go from the “dry” season to the “wet’ season, the makeshift shacks made of bits of tin and mud bricks which attempt to protect its inhabitants from the extreme sun & heat today… next week will turn into leaking mud filled living quarters with no escape. They pray for the rain now and then curse it when it arrives all at once.

So the next time you brush your teeth … turn the water off while scrubbing. Be sure you have a full load of dishes or laundry before flipping on the washer. Donating clothing to Africa is nice … but what they really need is WATER. So when it comes time to donate, think of charities that provide cows, goats, and WELLS to needy villages. This will truly help them to help themselves. We can’t really “ship” water to Africa … but the least we can do is appreciate every drop of clean life-giving water that we are blessed to have.

I promise that my next travelogue will be on the brighter more colorful side of West Africa!


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Re: West Africa 2
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2010, 08:41:26 AM »

Thank you very much for posting this.  Your WATER - in the home image is beautiful, and telling.  Photography can be a very powerful tool for illustrating and reinforcing the written word, especially when the issues are as grave as this.